Nebraska Realty & First Mortgage Take Lead Helping Omaha's Homeless…

An open letter from George Akers, Executive Vice President of First Mortgage:

There is no way I can express the depth of my gratitude for the generosity of the folks at Nebraska Realty.  With the money you raised/donated at your Christmas party, along with First Mortgage Company’s matching funds, the Shelter Funds has been able to do something truly amazing.  Before I tell you what’s been done let me give you some background information.

If you can remember back to Thanksgiving you’ll remember that it was cold – bitterly cold with temperatures down in the 20s.  This is not the kind of weather where you want to be sleeping outside, but that’s what David Busch was doing.  His current home had no address; it was simply a strip of cardboard placed on the ground between two buildings near 73rd and Blondo.  He was living on the streets of Omaha.  Sadly, his body was found Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving; he died of exposure.  David was only 36 years old.

It’s sad to think that something like this can happen in our city, but it does…more than most people know.  Now though, thanks to your generosity, something more is being done to help Omaha’s homeless street people.  The Shelter Fund made a donation to the Open Door Mission that allowed them to hire a full-time director for their “Streets of Omaha” program and expand this program’s services from two days a week to five days a week.  The Streets of Omaha program provides sack lunches, toiletries, and other necessities to those living in abandoned buildings, homeless camps along the levy, camp grounds, vehicles, under bridges, crack allies, dumpsters, rest stops, public bathrooms, etc. The issues are as diverse as the people themselves – families, teenagers aging out of foster care, the mentally ill, abused, afflicted, human trafficking and the addicted. More and more elderly, living on a fixed income, will come to the Streets of Omaha van to receive a sack lunch. Many say it’s their only meal for the day.

With the Shelter Fund’s donation the Open Door Mission has re-worked their Streets of Omaha route and, starting February 29th, began reaching farther west, north and south.  And now, by expanding to five days a week, the Open Door Mission’s team of volunteers and staff can cover twice as much ground and find homeless people faster.

Meeting people where they are – geographically, philosophically and emotionally is so important.  Street homeless are often disconnected and disengaged with society; living in survival mode often due to trauma and crisis in their lives. Candace Gregory, the executive director of the Open Door Mission said, “Our goal is to reach the street homeless with food, love and toiletries and then offer the resources of a free hot shower, a hot nutritious meal, clean clothing, safe shelter…the basic necessities.  We will empower our street homeless to know that there are resources available for them when they are ready to accept the help.”

The sad circumstances of David Busch’s death inspired the Shelter Fund to make an effort to help Omaha’s street homeless.  And now, thanks to your generosity, David’s life was not lived in vain.  God bless you for your generosity.

Covenants: What Every Buyer Should Know

Restrictive covenants by design can have an enormous impact on the use and the value of property. Unfortunately, they are often times overlooked by the buyer and their agent. When purchasing property it is important to know what restrictions and obligations are tied to the property you are about to purchase and what potential consequences if you don’t, or can’t, comply with those restrictions and obligations.

Over the past few years, Home Owners Associations (HOA) in the Omaha area have used covenants to enforce rules and regulations upon their residents. HOA’s commonly enforce covenants that restrict the owner’s ability to install items such as fences, solar panels, and landscaping, siding, and color schemes.

When purchasing a property, it is essential that buyers read and fully understand any covenants that will apply to their home BEFORE submitting offers to purchase or at a minimum, a contingency should be included with any offer to purchase a property that makes the purchase offer conditional upon the buyer’s review of any covenants. Remember, restrictive covenants are not limited to areas of new construction. Many subdivision that are decades old can be subject to restrictive covenants. You can obtain copies of covenants from Aksarben Title & Escrow.

How Do Covenants Actually Impact the Property and the Owners?

Collectively, covenants fall into one of two categories: (1) restrictions impacting the use of the property; and/or (2) imposing certain obligations on the property owner.

Restrictions: Covenants can restrict your free use of your property. There are numerous examples of restricted behavior; however, here are a few of the more common ones:

(1) Architectural Review:  If your property is subject to architectural review, any new construction or modification to existing structures on the property will more than likely require pre-approval by an architectural review committee.  This committee is typically established and controlled by the developer of the property and then, after the developer has sold all or a substantial part of its property in the development, controlled by the subdivisions board of directors of the HOA.

Examples of typical architectural restrictions include, but are not limited to, limitations on exterior paint colors, color and types of siding, fencing, landscaping, and design of structures. How much authority do these boards or HOA’s have? Absolute; however, their decisions can’t be arbitrary or discriminatory. For example, a HOA could not deny a handicapped person in a wheel chair a request to install a ramp.

The architectural review committee considers whether the proposed construction or landscaping complies with the architectural guidelines and whether it will be consistent with other structures in the community.  The restrictive covenants typically grants the committee the authority to deny an application on purely aesthetic grounds.

(2) Rentals: Restrictive covenants may prohibit the owner from renting the property or place certain restrictions on the way your property may be rented.  For example, the restrictive covenants may provide that your property may not be leased for a term shorter than 6-months or 1-year. Why is that important to a buyer? If you are purchasing property on a beach or in the mountains, you may be purchasing it with the intention of leasing the property on a weekly basis.  A restriction prohibiting leases with a term shorter than 6-months would reduce the value for your particular plan.

(3) Home Usage: It is common for restrictive covenants to prohibit home based businesses such as a daycare or operating a garage. It may also prohibit the storage of RV’s or boats and may require homeowners to park in their garages.

Owner Obligations: another aspect of covenants is to obligate the owner to do or perform certain things:

The most common obligation is the requirement to pay HOA Dues or Assessments. The dues or assessments fund common expenses of the HOA.  Common expenses incurred by the HOA may include maintenance of the common areas, lawn service, snow removal, insurance, painting of structures, concrete maintenance, painting or siding maintenance, pool maintenance, etc. Keep in mind, that your lack use of these common items such as the pool, does not remove your requirement to pay the dues or assessments. You are obligated to pay these dues or assessments regardless of usage or complaints you may have against the HOA.

What Happens If I Don’t Pay My Dues or Follow The Covenants?

Most enforcement of restrictive covenants is carried out by the HOA. In an area with restrictive covenants, but no owners association, an individual owner may enforce the restrictive covenants against other property owners. Usually, this means that an offended owner must sue the offending owner to obtain an injunctive relief order preventing the offending owner continuing to violate a covenant. For example, an owner may sue another owner that has violated the covenants by building a fence, or shed, or installed solar panels, if such structures are prohibited by the restrictive covenants.

In most cases however, there is a HOA that monitors the subdivision and levies any complaints against the homeowner that is breaking the rules. Typically, the HOA will first provide the offending owner a notice of the alleged violation and provide an opportunity to cure the infraction. If the owner fails to respond to the notice or cure the issue the HOA may file a law suit against the offending owner to force compliance with the covenants. The offending owner may be responsible for HOA’s legal costs.

If an owner fails to pay their dues or assessments, the HOA can place a lien against the owner’s property and may ultimately foreclose on the property to enforce the claim of lien.

Are Covenants Good or Bad?

Depends on your point of view. Some people will intentionally purchase property with no covenants so they may have broader freedoms to use the property. Some find that restrictive covenants preserve the value of the subdivision; therefore, preserves the value of their home by providing a certain level of uniformity. Others simply don’t care one way or another. However, one thing is for sure, when purchasing a property you should absolutely know if there are covenants on the property and what those covenants require and if any dues or assessments apply. In order to make an informed decision, you, as a purchaser of restricted property, should carefully review all of the covenants affecting the property prior to purchasing it and consider the effect of their restrictions and obligations on your intended use of the property.  A little bit of research now may prevent a great deal of heartache in the future.

This article is not intended to give, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. No action should be taken in reliance upon the information contained in this article without obtaining the advice of an attorney.

What You Need to Know About Mortgages BEFORE You Buy

Buying a home is one of the most exciting events in your life and is likely to be the most expensive purchase that you will ever make. Here are some things to consider before you make the commitment:

  • Have you saved enough money for the down payment? You must have job stability and a steady income.

  • What is your estimated monthly payment for the home? In addition to the monthly payment foe principal and interest, you will have to pay for taxes and insurance, and possibly homeowner association dues.
  • What is your estimated monthly payment for the home? In addition to the monthly payment foe principal and interest, you will have to pay for taxes and insurance, and possibly homeowner association dues.
  • What are the other costs of owning a home? Be realistic about costs such as heating, air conditioning and other utilities.
  • What can you afford? Be confident that you can make the monthly payments.
    The Total Cost of a Mortgage

These four cost components equals the monthly mortgage payment you will pay each month:

Principal + Interest + Taxes + Insurance (PITI) = Total Cost of Your Mortgage

Principal (P) represents the amount of money you borrow, which has to be repaid over time. Interest (I) is the cost that lenders charge for the use of their money. Taxes (T) is an assessment that local governments collect on property to pay for local services. Property tax rates will vary by location and can affect your total cost and affordability. Homeowners Insurance (I) will be required to replace the value of the loan in the event of a disaster such as fire, hail, flood, etc. Many times buyers ignore these additional costs when figuring how much of a home they can afford.

Types of Home Loans

Conventional and Government Loans. FHA and VA loans are government loans. All other loans are generally classified as conventional loans.

FHA Loans

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). FHA administers various mortgage loan programs that have lower down payment requirements and can be easier to qualify for than conventional loans. FHA loans have certain loan limits that do change from time-to-time. Your loan officer will keep you informed of those limits.

VA Loans

VA loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs allowing veterans and service persons to obtain home loans with favorable terms and often without a down payment. While it’s easier to qualify for a VA loan than a conventional loan, lenders generally limit the maximum VA loan to $417,000. The VA doesn’t make the loans, but recommends you via a certificate of eligibility to your lender.

Fixed Mortgages

Any Fixed Mortgage locks in the interest rate for the length of the loan. While you can always refinance, a fixed rate insulates you from increasing rates, but keeps you from automatically enjoying rate declines.

Mortgage Insurance

A government-backed or privately-backed policy that protects lenders against some or most of the losses that can occur when a borrower defaults on a mortgage loan; mortgage insurance is required primarily for borrowers with a down payment of less than 20% of the home’s purchase price. The cost for mortgage insurance is usually built into the monthly payment made to the lender. Mortgage insurance makes it possible to buy a home with as little as 3.5% down.

Escrow Accounts

A mortgage escrow account is an easy and simple way to manage your annual tax and insurance payments and put them on autopilot. The biggest advantage of using an escrow service is not having to come up with large payments once a year to pay your bills. It is much easier for most people to pay $200 per month into a forced savings account instead of paying $2400 at once. Mortgage escrow accounts also guarantee your bills are paid on-time. Your payments have already been budgeted for you and the money is waiting and available in your account. When the bill is due, the escrow account takes care of everything for you. It is nice not to have to remember payment dates, amounts, etc.

There are advantages to the lender and county as well. The lender is assured your insurance premiums will always be up to date, so their asset (your house) is protected in the event of destruction. The county is assured they receive their property tax payments on time.

There are disadvantages though – most escrow accounts do not earn the account holder interest, though some earn interest at a low rate. For someone with a large house and a $10,000 property tax bill, that adds up to a lot of lost opportunity every year. There are also associated fees which cut into your bottom line.

Can you avoid using an escrow service?
Yes, but not always. Some mortgages require escrow accounts, especially for first time home buyers or home buyers with small down payments. There are some advantages for going without an escrow service – your money can earn you interest and you may be eligible for early payment discounts for some bills. But the disadvantages are obvious – you are required to pay your tax bills and insurance payments on time or risk losing your house.

Loan Pre-Qualification

Loan Pre-qualification will strengthen your negotiating position with the seller. Ask at least one lender to pre-qualify you for a mortgage. The lender will analyze your credit position, current income, and outstanding debts to give you a reasonable estimate of your borrowing amount. There is no obligation on you to obtain a loan from that lender, nor does it obligate the lender to provide a mortgage loan.

Shopping For A Mortgage

Shopping for your loan is probably the most important step in your home-buying process. Mortgage brokers and lenders have a wide variety of mortgage products. The type of loan product and your interest rate will not only influence your total settlement costs but will determine the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. A great rate on the wrong loan can cost you thousands. That is why working with an experienced Loan Officer is key.

Selecting a Loan Officer

The right loan officer helps you secure the best possible financing for your loan, and also plays a vital role in assuring a smooth home buying experience. We are pleased to have formed a preferred partnership with First Mortgage Company, the largest independent FHA lender in Nebraska. The loan officers at First Mortgage Company are experts at helping you pick the right mortgage and walking you through the entire purchase process.

When you work with First Mortgage Company, we know you’ll experience personal attention and professional service in handling your loan transaction.

Amy Hayes-Preucil
First Mortgage Company
Mortgage Consultant
P: (402) 431-4309

Megan Woelfel
First Mortgage Company
Mortgage Consultant
P: (402) 431-4308

10 Tips for Moving With Pets

Experts at the Pet Realty Network in Naples, FL, offer these helpful tips for easing the transition and keeping pets safe during the move:

(1) Update your pet’s tag. Make sure your pet is wearing a sturdy collar with an identification tag that is labeled with your current contact information. The tag should include your destination location, telephone number, and cell phone number so that you can be reached immediately during the move.

(2) Ask for veterinary records. If you’re moving far enough away that you’ll need a new vet, you should ask for a current copy of your pet’s vaccinations. You also can ask for your pet’s medical history to give to your new vet, although that can normally be faxed directly to the new medical-care provider upon request. Depending on your destination, your pet may need additional vaccinations, medications, and health certificates. Have your current vet’s phone number handy in case of an emergency, or in case your new vet would like more information about your pet.

(3) Keep medications and food on hand. Keep at least one week’s worth of food and medication with you in case of an emergency. Vets can’t write a prescription without a prior doctor/patient relationship, which can cause delays if you need medication right away. You may want to ask for an extra prescription refill before you move. The same preparation should be taken with special therapeutic foods — purchase an extra supply in case you can’t find the food right away in your new area.

(4) Seclude your pet from chaos. Pets can feel vulnerable on moving day. Keep them in a safe, quiet, well-ventilated place, such as the bathroom, on moving day with a “Do Not Disturb! Pets Inside!” sign posted on the door. There are many light, collapsible travel crates on the market if you choose to buy one. However, make sure your pet is familiar with the new crate before moving day by gradually introducing him or her to the crate before your trip. Be sure the crate is well-ventilated and sturdy enough for stress-chewers; otherwise, a nervous pet could escape.

(5) Prepare a first aid kit. First aid is not a substitute for emergency veterinary care, but being prepared and knowing basic first aid could save your pet’s life. A few recommended supplies: Your veterinarian’s phone number, gauze to wrap wounds or to muzzle your pet, adhesive tape for bandages, non-stick bandages, towels, and hydrogen peroxide (3 percent). You can use a door, board, blanket or floor mat as an emergency stretcher and a soft cloth, rope, necktie, leash, or nylon stocking for an emergency muzzle.

(6) Play it safe in the car. It’s best to travel with your dog in a crate; second-best is to use a restraining harness. When it comes to cats, it’s always best for their safety and yours to use a well-ventilated carrier in the car. Secure the crate or carrier with a seat belt and provide your pet with familiar toys. Never keep your pet in the open bed of a truck or the storage area of a moving van. In any season, a pet left alone in a parked vehicle is vulnerable to injury and theft. If you’ll be using overnight lodging, plan ahead by searching for pet-friendly hotels. Have plenty of kitty litter and plastic bags on hand, and keep your pet on its regular diet and eating schedule.

(7) Get ready for takeoff. When traveling by air,check with the airline about any pet requirements or restrictions to be sure you’ve prepared your pet for a safe trip. Some airlines will allow pets in the cabin, depending on the animal’s size, but you’ll need to purchase a special airline crate that fits under the seat in front of you. Give yourself plenty of time to work out any arrangements necessary including consulting with your veterinarian and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If traveling is stressful for your pet, consult your veterinarian about ways that might lessen the stress of travel.

(8) Find a new veterinary clinic and emergency hospital. Before you move, ask your vet to recommend a doctor in your new locale. Talk to other pet owners when visiting the new community, and call the state veterinary medical association (VMA) for veterinarians in your location. When choosing a new veterinary hospital, ask for an impromptu tour; kennels should be kept clean at all times, not just when a client’s expected. You may also want to schedule an appointment to meet the vets. Now ask yourself: Are the receptionists, doctors, technicians, and assistants friendly, professional and knowledgeable? Are the office hours and location convenient? Does the clinic offer emergency or specialty services or boarding? If the hospital doesn’t meet your criteria, keep looking until you’re assured that your pet will receive the best possible care.

(9) Prep your new home for pets. Pets may be frightened and confused in new surroundings. Upon your arrival at your new home, immediately set out all the familiar and necessary things your pet will need: food, water, medications, bed, litter box, toys, etc. Pack these items in a handy spot so they can be unpacked right away. Keep all external windows and doors closed when your pet is unsupervised, and be cautious of narrow gaps behind or between appliances where nervous pets may try to hide. If your old home is nearby, your pet may try to find a way back there. To be safe, give the new home owners or your former neighbors your phone number and a photo of your pet, and ask them to contact you if your pet is found nearby.

(10) Learn more about your new area. Once you find a new veterinarian, ask if there are any local health concerns such as heartworm or Lyme disease, or any vaccinations or medications your pet may require. Also, be aware of any unique laws. For example, there are restrictive breed laws in some cities. Homeowner associations also may have restrictions — perhaps requiring that all dogs are kept on leashes. If you will be moving to a new country, carry an updated rabies vaccination and health certificate. It is very important to contact the Agriculture Department or embassy of the country or state to which you’re traveling to obtain specific information on special documents, quarantine, or costs to bring the animal into the country.

Source: The Pet Realty Network

Top Home Buying Tips

Before purchasing your home, here is Nebraska Realty’s top eleven home buying tips!

Tip #10: Get Pre-Approved by Your Mortgage Lender
It almost seems cliché’ these days to hear the phrase, “Get pre-approved.” But the facts are the facts: there is a substantial difference between a home buyer that is “pre-qualified” and one that is “pre-approved.” Just about anyone can get pre-qualified, even a buyer with horrible credit. Getting pre-approved means the lender has investigated the buyer’s finances, credit, debt-to-income ratio’s, and determined how much the buyers can borrow.

Tip #9: “Fees Are Like A Box of Chocolates…”
What the heck…while you’re getting pre-approved it will do you well to learn about lender fee’s. What is a legitimate lender fee and what is a junk fee? Ask questions and compare! Know and understand what “Discount Point’s” and “Origination Fee’s” are and how they will cost you. Remember, not every lender is the same!

DON’T…I repeat… DO NOT make any large purchases or move money from one account to another unless you get the APPROVAL from your lender! Purchasing that new living room set should wait until after closing. Why? Moving money from one account to another or charging a new living room set on your credit card can jeopardize your loan approval. Lenders routinely run a credit report a few days before closing to ensure nothing new has changed since you receive your pre-approval letter. This includes opening new credit accounts like Visa or MasterCard.

Tip #7: Don’t Attempt to Time the Deal
Attempting to time the market does not work for trading stocks and it does not work with purchasing real estate. The best time to buy is when you have found the house you want and can afford! If you wait for the “perfect time” you will end up on the losing side of the transaction.

Tip #6: Get A Plot Plan or Survey!
At a minimum you should get a Plot Plan. If the property appears to have some potential boundary issues, get a survey done. Once the transaction is closed any boundary disputes discovered becomes your problem! It is not uncommon to discover that decks and garages are encroaching on the neighbor’s property or utility easement. By discovering boundary issues before closing, you can require the seller to correct these items prior to closing or you may be in the position to withdraw from the purchase contract if the dispute is severe enough.

Tip #5: More Is Not Always Better
Is more better? If it’s the largest most expensive home in the neighborhood and you qualify to purchase it… should you? Honestly, bigger is usually not better when it comes to houses. Remember, you may qualify for a $250,000 mortgage…but do you really want one? Can you settle for $225,000? Don’t fall into the trap of, “OK, I qualify for it so let’s buy.” Not only will it result in a tighter monthly home budget, but it most will likely cause undue personal and financial stress in your life.

Tip #4: Plan for Other Home Related Expenses
In Tip #5 I said…”You may qualify for a $250,000 mortgage…but do you really want one?” Budgeting for home ownership is much more than just your monthly house payment. You must be aware of other required home ownership expenses such as real estate taxes, insurance (which are usually included in your monthly mortgage payment), utilities, H.O.A. dues, maintenance, lawn care, new roof, broken furnace & air, and the list goes on and on. These are called “sleeper costs” and you need to budget for them.

Tip #3: Purchasing A Home Is A BUSINESS Transaction NOT An Emotional Decision!
It’s OK to fall in love with a home BUT it’s not OK to conduct business in the same manner. If you fall in love with something and you allow it to determine your actions, you might end up making some really bad decisions. Buying a home is very exciting but it’s a business transaction. If the numbers don’t work…don’t force it! Otherwise, I guarantee you will end up regretting it. Purchasing a home is an investment… be calm and make wise choices.

Tip#2: Improving On Tip #3
Making your offer on a home should be based on only two things: (1) Can you afford it, and (2) what’s the property’s actual market value? That’s it! Your REALTOR® can help you determine the market value… P.S. NEVER, and I mean NEVER, take stock or make an offer based on a valuation model from a Zillow, Trulia, or other online service! They tend to be inaccurate. Your REALTOR® knows how to determine value better than anyone so trust them.

Make your opening bid fair and reasonable. Something that’s not going to totally offend the seller. How low should you go? Well, there is no real answer since each individual sale in unique. However, there are some things you should consider:

  • What kind of market is it (buyer or sellers’ market)?
  • Market statistics for the neighborhood?
  • Are there other interested parties?
  • Home much can you afford?
  • How much deferred maintenance will be required to fix?

And the list goes on and on. Your REALTOR® can assist you with determining a good starting point.

Tip #1: Get A Home Inspection!
You don’t buy a car unless your uncle has checked it over…you don’t train for a marathon unless you have received the OK from your doctor…and, you don’t buy a home without having a home inspection. In fact, I believe it’s the most important few hundred dollars you will spend on the transaction! The home inspector’s sole job is to provide you with a bill of health report on the property. When the home inspector identifies potential issues (and they will), you can negotiate with the seller to fix the items, renegotiate the purchase price, or if severe enough, terminate the purchase contract. Your REALTOR® will help you structure the home inspection provision in the purchase contract and probably can provide you with a list of good inspectors. Remember, it will be the best money you have spent!

P.S.: I almost forgot…investigate the neighborhood. Because of Fair Housing Rules, agents can’t give you their opinion on the demographics of a neighborhood, nor should they! Your agent may legitimately think a particular neighborhood is awesome and safe and you may feel totally different. Such things are subjective to the individual so investigate for yourself if it’s a neighborhood you’d like to live in. Here are a few things you can do to determine whether or not a neighborhood is for you:

  • Drive by the subject home in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Both on weekdays and weekends if time permits;
  • Determine your drive times to and from work;
  • How will your children get to their schools,
  • Locations to nearest shopping venues.